PH bags $400M agri loan

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    The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $400-million loan to support reforms by the Philippine government that seek to raise productivity and competitiveness of the agriculture sector, the multilateral agency said in a statement yesterday.

    The Competitive and Inclusive Agriculture Development Program, Subprogram 1, will help the government expand economic opportunities in the farm sector by implementing trade policy and regulatory reforms, enhancing public services and finance to the sector, and expanding social protection to rural families, ADB said.

    “The Philippines has made tremendous strides in reducing the national poverty rate, but rural poverty remains high because of low productivity and limited crop diversification,” Ahmed Saeed, ADB vice president, said in the statement.

    “This loan will support the government’s comprehensive suite of policy and regulatory reforms, resolving institutional weaknesses in land and water management, expanding agricultural financing to boost productivity, and extending the social safety net to unserved and underserved rural families,” he added.

    Among the government reforms under the Competitive and Inclusive Agriculture Development Program, Subprogram 1, is the passage of the 2019 Rice Tariffication Act and the various measures it provides.

    Using collected duties on imported rice, the government set up the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund to strengthen the rice industry. The government is also initiating additional reforms in land and water resources, including irrigation investments.

    The ADB said other reforms supported by the loan include additional assistance to farmers making the transition towards higher value crops and those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

    “These include unconditional cash grants and the Expanded Survival and Recovery Assistance Program for Rice Farmers to provide zero-interest loans to more than 160,000 small farmers,” the ADB said.

    The program also expands the government’s pre-school feeding programs to families to reduce malnutrition and stunting, it added.

    The Manila-based agency said the new loan will be complemented by upcoming investments to enhance flood risk management in major river basins, improve irrigation efficiency, and promote agro-enterprise development. (A. Celis)